Prada-wearing Pope sparks 'cassock wars' by ditching tailor

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The Independent Online

The Roman Catholic leader has sparked what are being dubbed "cassock wars" in the Vatican by dumping the services of the papal robemakers, who have been doing the job since 1792, and adopting a tailor who has only been in business for the past 20 years.

A report in today's Tablet says: "It is already clear that he likes wearing nice threads and expensive sunglasses (which it is said were a gift) and publicly he has been celebrating Mass in some elegant new vestments tailor-made inside the Vatican."

According to the British Catholic newspaper's Rome reporter, Robert Mickens, a turf war may have broken out between the two tailors trying to win the Pope's business.

A German magazine first reported last month that the Pope had changed his tailor. He effectively ditched Annibale Gammarelli, of the eponymous firm of outfitters who have been making papal cassocks since 1792, in favour of Mancinelli, a small shop that has been operating for a mere two decades.

"Gammarelli's cassocks are sewn beyond all the rules of tailoring art," the German publication quoted Raniero Mancinelli as saying. "The Pope was visibly not comfortable in them. So he came back to us and is breaking with tradition."

In addition to designer sunglasses, the Pope has favoured padded quilt jackets, jumpsuits, baseball caps and red Prada shoes, contrasting with the worn, brown, slip-on loafers which his predecessor was wearing when his body was laid out in state after his death earlier this year.

The Corriere della Sera newspaper, however, reported that the Pope had merely returned to Alessandro Cattaneo, a tailor who owns a shop called Euroclero, whom Benedict used when he was Cardinal Ratzinger. Corriere's Vatican reporter, Bruno Bartoloni, quoted the 70-year-old Mr Cattaneo's three children, Francesco, Roberto and Cristina, as confirming that they were fitting out "our first Pope".

Corriere quoted Vatican sources as denying the change amounted to "a betrayal" of Gammarelli, insisting that the tailor's shop remained the official papal outfitters.

The sources likened Benedict's choice to that of Pope Pius XII, the wartime pontiff, who also made extensive use of a "family tailor", while Gammarelli remained the official supplier of dress to the Holy Father.

"Benedict XVI sticks to his routines, to the furniture he had in his flat, to the old leather briefcase that he continues to carry under his arm when he goes to synods, for all those things with which older people are understandably affectionate," said Mr Bartoloni, a veteran reporter of the Holy See.

Mr Gammarelli angrily denied, meanwhile, that his services were no longer being used exclusively. "This is an ungracious falsehood," he said. "We are always in contact with the apartment of the Holy Father. Perhaps there was only an occasional gift by some friend of the Pontiff."

The Tablet suggested a clue to the changes might lie in the Pope's first days after his election to St Peter's throne. He was forced to wear one of three "stock" cassocks supplied by Gammarelli for the eventual winner of the Conclave. "Unfortunately, none fitted properly and the cassock, which hovered above the Pope's ankles, caused some amusement," Mr Mickens said. "Is it possible that Papa Ratzinger did not find it very funny?"

The first Pope to set foot in Gammarelli's was Pius VI, the former Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Braschi, in 1793. He was renowned for his vanity, and Italian satyrists such as Pasquino frequently lampooned his narcissism.